SENIOR AEROBICS: Marge Harmon leads the weekly senior aerobics class at the Lide White Memorial Boys & Girls Club/Family & Community Center. The free class is held from 9 to 10 a.m. Mondays at the Brown Gym and Thursdays at Lide White. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
SENIOR AEROBICS: Marge Harmon leads the weekly senior aerobics class at the Lide White Memorial Boys & Girls Club/Family & Community Center. The free class is held from 9 to 10 a.m. Mondays at the Brown Gym and Thursdays at Lide White. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
As people get older, exercising can play an important role in staying healthy and possibly living longer.

With every passing year, people lose muscle, but exercising can help slow that loss and improve cardiovascular and bone strength, said Heather Foy, health and wellness coordinator at King's Daughters' Health.

Most senior citizens are looking to continue to do routine activities, such as walking up and down the stairs, mowing the lawn, cleaning their home and playing with their grandchildren, among other things.

"Seniors don't want to lose their independence," Foy said.

While people age, their metabolism slows down, making it easier to gain weight. Getting up and moving around can be one of the easiest ways to reduce the chance of gaining weight, Foy said.

It doesn't have to be much, Foy said. Using 5-pound dumbbells for workouts can help provide resistance for working out.

The most common excuse for not working out or exercising can be a lack of time. Foy recommends taking a 10-minute break at work every now and then to get a little bit of movement. Taking a few breaks throughout the day can add up and result in getting a half-hour of exercise, which is what doctors recommend.

"I am a big fan that all activity counts," Foy said.

Another commonly heard excuse is that family history has already doomed their chances. Any history for stroke or heart attack means that they are doomed to suffer the same fate, so why bother exercising?

"Even if there is a family history of stroke, a family history of cancer or a family history of diabetes, their risk is decreasing much more because they're exercising," Foy said.

One of the keys to being able to stick with the program is to learn one new thing every day. Trying to do more could lead to becoming overwhelmed, Foy said.

The American Council on Exercise says the important thing to do is avoid extreme temperatures and stay hydrated during exercise. The council and Foy both recommend consulting with a doctor before doing any exercise.

"As generic as that sounds, it is important," Foy said.

Doctors will be able to watch blood pressure or insulin levels to ensure that whatever exercise is being done can continue to be done. The American Council on Exercise also recommends listening to your body and knowing when to stop exercising.

Foy is a fan of guided instruction, whether it's a class with an instructor or a workout tape. This can help ensure learning the proper technique of exercises. Doing an exercise class can help bring friends to the class and make it social or fun.

"Nobody wants exercise to be a chore," Foy said.